Who could resist an invitation from McLaren Automotive to test-drive its latest, most powerful, track-focused Super Series model, the 600LT Coupé? It was not in me to say ‘no’ to this invite, which took me onto the legendary Hungaroring F1 race circuit on the outskirts of Budapest.
This track is known for its tight and twisty corners. It requires countless gear changes and intense concentration. Similar in style to the Monaco circuit, it has seen thrills and spills of epic proportions. Think of Nigel Mansell’s win from 12th on the grid after a spectacular overtake on Ayrton Senna in 1989. Or one would recall Felipe Massa’s life-threatening head injury after being struck by a stray suspension spring that fell off Rubens Barrichello’s car in 2009.
It was on this circuit that I was handed the keys to the latest car to sport the McLaren ‘Longtail’ badge. Painted in Chicane Grey with carbon black and burnt orange interiors, it was a sight to behold.
Helmet on, I slipped into the ultra-lightweight carbon fibre Senna racing seat. Not one to do things by halves, McLaren had an expert team of professional race car drivers, technicians and even senior designer Max Shkinder on hand to ensure that we were able to push the 600LT to the limit, while guaranteeing that the fleet was constantly in tip-top shape.
Based on its 570S Coupé predecessor, what’s incredible is that McLaren Automotive managed to strip out an additional 100kg from a car that’s already unconventionally light. It weighs 1,247kg, if you choose all the lightweighting options.
The chassis, body panels, roof, front fender louvres and interiors, are made of carbon fibre. But McLaren has also made the GPS, audio system and air-conditioning optional, and has removed the carpeting and glovebox. It’s incorporated lightweight suspension components, glazing and aluminium alloy wheel design.
The result: Minimal weight, increased power, optimised aerodynamics, driver focus and rarity.
The 570S is a more road-biased car that performs well on track. In comparison, the 600LT — though road-legal — was made for racing. Very planted, it drives flat and solid, the extreme grip coming from the increased downforce. It is perfect for producing track-cornering speeds surpassing those of even the higher-category 675LT.
Punching above its weight, the 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 engine with 600PS delivers a top speed of 328 km/h. It accelerated from zero to 100km/h in 2.9 seconds (equivalent to the 675LT), outperforming the Ferrari 488 GTB that takes 3 seconds to reach the same velocity and is more than 120kg heavier.
Lighter, stiffer engine and transmission mounts give a purer sense of connection with the vehicle, adding more vibrations from the engine and the drive train for a full-on visceral experience.
Super-engaging with faster gear shifts, there was feedback from every manoeuvre. Ride height, by the way, has been lowered by 8mm to contribute to handling. Adopting the brakes from McLaren’s Super Series 720S, pedal feel was responsive and provided remarkable stopping power when required.
On the track, this baby ate through tonnes of rubber. I was assured, however, that plenty of spare Pirelli P-Zero Trofeo R tyres (bespoke to the 600LT) were stocked in the garage.
This beauty also shoots out flames from the striking twin exhausts behind the engine bay. It’s gimmicky but what a trick. When this feature kicks in, menacing growls, whip cracks and the music of the powertrain enters the cabin in glorious surround sound.
Production of the 600LT is limited by time, the cars will be made for a year starting this month. Each car is hand-assembled and made-to-order. Deliveries commence this month. Prices without cost options start at $799,000, inclusive of tax.